He's walking around the lake with a girl.
James Potter is walking around the lake with a girl.
James Potter. The lake. A girl.
If this were any other bloke, this wouldn't be a problem. I mean, Sirius Black walks around the lake with a girl all the time. Usually a different girl every week. And you don't see me treating it as the Apocalypse, do you?
No. You don't.
This is because while it's not at all unusual to see Sirius Black strolling 'round the home of the Giant Squid hand-in-hand with one of the female persuasion, it is unusual to see James Potter doing so.
It's more than unusual, to be honest. In fact, when Alice told me she'd seen James and some girl by the lake, I asked if she was feeling ill and dragged her to the Hospital Wing without waiting for her answer.
In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have done that, because apparently my best mate wasn't exactly delighted to be pulled down three stories to see a rather cranky Madame Pomfrey for an illness she doesn't actually have.
But how was I supposed to know that she wasn't hallucinating? I thought she was suffering from delusions! And obviously they were delusions, because James Potter would never walk around the lake with a girl. I took action accordingly.
A woman of action, that's me.
My actions were justified, too. Never in a million years would James Potter be by the lake with a girl.
At least, that's what I thought until an incredibly irritated Alice broke free as we were about to enter the Hospital Wing, dragged me to a window, and pointed at the lake. And what did I see? James Potter, walking around the lake, with a girl.
A girl who's not me.
See, that's the problem. It's not that James wouldn't walk around the lake with a girl – it's that he wouldn't walk around the lake with a girl who's not me.
Not that I would walk around the lake with him, mind. You only walk around the lake with a bloke if he's your boyfriend. James Potter is, most assuredly, not my boyfriend. Although, to be honest, he's not bad. He's an amazing bloke, actually. An amazing bloke with dreamy hazel eyes and Quidditich-toned muscles and –
But that's not the point. James Potter is walking around the lake with a girl. I must get to the bottom of this.
"Lily, darling!" Sirius flashes me a smile that makes most females – and a few males – swoon. "Looking for Prongs? Head business, perhaps?"
Why is Sirius able to make innuendo out of everything with a waggle of his eyebrows and a smirk?
"Surprisingly enough, I actually want to torture myself long enough to talk to you."
"Ah, the great Lily Evans graces me with her presence!" He grins. He thinks he's so clever. "What can I do for you, Lils?"
Okay. This will take a considerable amount of finesse. Be subtle about this, Evans. Start talking about the weather. That's always a good conversation starter. Then I'll slowly lead up to asking for the name of the girl with James. It's a fantastic, fool-proof plan.
"Well, see, I just happened to look out the window earlier. We have some lovely weather today, you know, not a cloud in the sky and all that rubbish, perfect weather for a walk 'round the lake –"
"Prongs said the same thing, actually," Sirius cuts in, looking amused. "Informed me he was going to walk around the lake, in fact. With a girl."
This is turning out to be easier than I thought it would be.
"Did he?" I ask with fake indifference. "Come to think of it, I think I did see James' hair earlier, when I glanced out the window."
"Impossible to miss, that," Sirius remarks wryly. "Bloody bird's nest."
I couldn't quite dispute that. James' hair is uncontrollably messy. Not that it makes him less attractive; in fact, it makes him look rather sexy.
Not that I'd ever tell him, of course.
"No one has hair like James," I agree with him. "I didn't see anyone next to him, though. Are you quite sure he's out with a girl?"
"Of course I am," Sirius says, indignant. "I'm hurt, Evans. Some best mate I'd be if I didn't know where James was."
I frown. It's obvious I'm not going to get anything from him unless I ask directly, which is something I'm not willing to do.
"Alright, then," I say. "I've got an essay to finish. Thanks for the chat, Sirius."
"Anytime," he replies, sticking his hands into his pockets. "And Lils," he adds, grinning slyly, "You could have just asked who she was."
Sirius Black is too bloody perceptive.
Leaving an extremely amused Sirius in the middle of the corridor, I walk to the kitchen. Sirius wouldn't tell me anything except her name. Marlene McKinnon. I know Remus will give in to me, though. I can find out all the details from him. I just need the right tools.
Fifteen minutes later, armed with dark chocolate (courtesy of my favourite house elf, Twinky), I march to the library. Remus is where I thought he would be, sitting at the little table by the Ancient Rune section. I pull out a chair, and the sound of its legs scraping against the floor makes him look up from his book.
"Er, hi, Lily," he says, looking nervous. Sirius probably warned him not to tell me while I was in the kitchens. No matter. I have my secret weapon, after all.
"Hi, Remus," I reply, smiling sweetly.
"I can't tell you anything," he says, looking wary. "I won't tell you anything. Best not to try anymore."
"I have no idea what you're talking about," I say innocently, bringing out a bar of chocolate from my bag. Remus' eyes zero in on it, and he licks his lips unconsciously.
"Dark chocolate," he murmurs, almost reverentially, before moaning, "Why are you doing this to me, Lily?"
Just a little more and I'll have him.
"I still don't know what you're talking about."
He groans, burying his head in his arms on the table. "Lily is not holding chocolate, Lily is not holding chocolate," he chants.
"I am, actually," I say brightly. "In fact, it's from Switzerland."
"Swiss… dark… chocolate…" He looks up at me, eyes half-crazed.
"Top-quality Swiss dark chocolate," I add helpfully, nodding. "Twinky says it's the very best. And you know I'm the only one Twinky ever gives such fantastic chocolate to."
Remus licks his lips again. "I don't suppose you'd just give that top-quality Swiss dark chocolate to me out of the goodness of your heart?"
"I would, but I'm rather hungry, you see. I was supposed to meet James in the kitchen for a snack, but he didn't show. Apparently he's busy. You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you?"
He looks pained, eyes darting back and forth from the chocolate I hold in my hand to his book. "Damn you, Sirius Black," he mutters.
"I don't know anything about it," he says to me, his voice firm. His eyes stay locked on the chocolate.
"Such a shame," I say, dropping the chocolate back in my bag and turning around to leave. "If I could find James and eat with him, I'd be free to give you the chocolate. I know how much you love Swiss dark chocolate."
I walk away, waiting for him to call out. I have to hand it to him, though; he's as loyal as a true Gryffindor ought to be. He resigns himself to slamming his head on the table and moaning "Swiss dark chocolate!" again and again. I didn't expect that he would resist the temptation, but I'm not worried. I still have one last option.
He jumps, clearly surprised at someone calling him.
"Me?" He asks, gesturing to himself.
"Yeah," I say, moving closer to where he sits in the Gryffindor Common Room. "Fancy a game of chess?"
"Er, of course." He stands up, still looking slightly unsure.
"Great!" I follow him to the chess table and help him set up the pieces. I'm horrible at chess, but I figure it won't take me long to get what I need from Peter.
"White?" he offers.
"Sure. Thanks." I order a knight to move, ignoring the shouts of the other pieces. "Er, Peter, I overheard something in the loo earlier. Maybe you could shed some light on it?"
"Alright," he says, prodding a pawn forward.
"It's probably just a silly rumour," I tell him, pretending to contemplate my next move. You know how the Hogwarts gossip mill is. But these girls have been saying that James is dating two girls at the same time."
He looks up from the chess board, mouth agape. "That's a complete lie," he says fiercely. "It's against Marauder code to cheat on girlfriends. I mean, Sirius goes through girls like they grow on trees, but even he never dates more than one at once. So James would never do that."
"So he's not dating two girls?" I've dropped all pretense of playing chess now.
C'mon, Peter, just tell me if James and Marlene McKinnon are dating!
"I don't think he's even da –"
I glare at Sirius, who seems to have appeared out of nowhere and has his hand on Peter's mouth.
"Oops, sorry, Wormy," he says, grinning as he removes his hand. "My hand slipped."
Peter rolls his eyes and shoves Sirius off the chair. "That was completely unnecessary," he complains. "It's not like I was going to tell her about the plan –"
He breaks off as Sirius elbows him in the ribs.
"What plan?" I ask them, raising an eyebrow.
"What plan?" Sirius says innocently.
"You know what plan."
"I haven't heard of any plan, have you, Wormtail?"
Peter shakes his head. "I'm afraid not, Padfoot. Before you so rudely elbowed me," he adds, glaring at Sirius, "I was going to say plant. Not plan."
"See, Lily," Sirius says. "Plant. I have no idea where you're getting this plan rubbish."
"If it's just a plant, then why didn't you want Peter to tell me about it?"
The two of them exchange a glance. Peter gulps nervously, his Adam's apple bobbing up and down. I'd like to see how they're going to get out of this one.
"Er, well, we're giving it to James for his birthday," Sirius says.
"And we didn't tell you because we thought you might tell him," Peter adds, nodding quickly.
"James wouldn't want a plant."
"It's a special plant!" Peter says defensively. "It does… er, it does…"
"Wonderful things!" Sirius cuts in, eyes wide.
I grin. Good actors they may be, but logical thinkers they are not. "What sort of wonderful things?"
"Incredibly wonderful things," Peter blurts out, shooting a panicked glance at Sirius.
This is actually quite fun.
"It's a prank plant from Zonko's," Sirius says, grinning triumphantly. "Nothing you'd be interested in, Evans."
"Oh, but I am," I say, leaning forward. "Tell me more. It sounds very interesting. Especially since James' birthday is in March. Four months from now."
"Look at the pot calling the kettle black," Sirius says. "You bought all your Christmas presents in the summer!"
"I've bought all my Christmas presents in advance for the past seven years," I tell him, smiling sweetly. "You two, on the other hand, buy your presents the night before. Why the sudden change?"
"We're reformed men," says Peter.
"We are indeed," Sirius chimes in, nodding sagely. "Now, Flower, speaking of Christmas presents, I hope you got me something."
Pfft. As if he can distract me that easily.
"You wish," I say, rolling my eyes. "Although I wouldn't be averse to getting you something on the next Hogsmeade trip if you play your cards right. About that rumour –"
"Moony, old pal!" Sirius cries jovially, jumping up from the floor and slinging an arm around Remus' shoulders.
"Padfoot, you prat," Remus hisses. "You owe me some top-quality Swiss dark chocolate."
Sirius blinks, confused, before waving his hand dismissively. "I'll get you a box for Christmas," he says.
"But Lily has some now," Remus says. "And she would've given me some if you hadn't sworn me to secrecy."
"The offer still stands," I cut in helpfully.
Sirius glares at me. Remus stares at my bag mournfully.
"I don't suppose you've tasted the chocolate yet," he says.
"I have, in fact," I reply brightly. "Some of the best chocolate I've ever had."
It's true – that was some bloody good chocolate.
"Was it slightly bitter?"
"It was –"
"Can we stop talking about the damn chocolate already?" Sirius asks. "It's just chocolate, for Merlin's sake."
"Padfoot, you know better than to belittle chocolate. You know how Moony gets when you do."
Ah. The devil himself climbs in the portrait hole. James Potter. Stay calm, Lily.
"Hullo, Prongs," Peter greets him.
"Wotcher, you lot," says James, perching himself on the arm of my chair. His hair is even messier than usual, probably from being outside on such a windy day. Outside with another girl. Merlin, I've got to stop obsessing over this. "What's Padfoot on about?"
"Moony's complaining because Lily didn't give him any chocolate."
"Lily!" James turns to me, a twinkle in his hazel eyes. "Didn't we already talk about the virtues of generosity last week?"
I roll my eyes. "If I recall correctly, you refused to help me with that Transfiguration essay. I was the one telling you to be generous during our conversation."
"Which makes it even worse," he points out. "As it means you're a hypocrite."
"I am not a hypocrite."
"Yes, you are," Remus interjects. "You swatted me before, when I ate chocolate in front of you without offering you any. And now you have all this wonderful top-quality Swiss dark chocolate in your bag, and you won't share."
I look at him. He's staring at my bag, his eyes wild.
"Oh, for Merlin's sake," Sirius says in exasperation. But for some reason, he's not looking at Remus. He's alternating his gaze between James and I. He stands from his seat, pulling Remus and Peter with him.
"Right, I'm off to get Moony's bloody chocolate," he says to us. "Honeydukes is having a sale. Wormtail, you're with us for moral support. I don't think I can handle Moony's mad comparisons of two brands of chocolate that taste exactly the same alone."
"Honeydukes doesn't have top-quality Swiss dark chocolate!" Remus cries.
Peter rolls his eyes. "In that case, Moony, we'll get a Portkey to Switzerland. Just to get your chocolate."
His obvious sarcasm is lost on Remus, who is in some sort of chocolate fantasy world. Much as I also love chocolate, this is getting ridiculous. The bloke needs help.
"If it's not too much trouble, maybe we could stop by Belgium as well," Remus is saying as I pull the bar of chocolate out of my bag and chuck it at his head. To my disappointment, his hands – which seem to have chocolate magnetic properties – snatch the bar out of the air, thwarting my plan to knock him unconscious. He holds it up reverentially, staring at it as if it's manna from heaven.
Sirius shakes his head and continues dragging Remus and Peter to the portrait hole. "Now that Moony is united with his beloved," he says, "Can we please go to Hogsmeade? His sweet tooth might be satisfied, but mine isn't."
And with that declaration, they're gone. The room feels much emptier now, despite the fact that there's still quite a lot of Gryffindors milling about.
James turns to me, shaking his head sadly. "Delusional, that one is," he says.
"Just like his mates," I quip.
"You can't mean me."
"Birds of a feather flock together." I say with a shrug, feeling proud of myself for coming up with a quick comeback (albeit not exactly an original one. But it's the thought that counts, yeah?).
"Speaking of birds," he starts, choosing to ignore my fantastically witty comeback.
Which is really rather rude of him. Communication is key to a good relationship. Not that I want to have a relationship with him, mind. I'm just saying.
"A little bird told me you were asking around me today," James continues.
I freeze. Bloody Sirius Black. He won't tell me what James is doing with Marlene McKinnon, but he goes ahead and tells James what I'm doing without any prompting. Traitor.
"Was I?" I reply innocently, trying to keep my cool. "It must've been my evil twin. I don't remember doing anything of the sort."
I look up to see James' amused face. Prat. If that smile of his gets any wider, I'm going to punch his mouth.
And then kiss those incredibly enticing lips and make it all better.
Oh, Merlin. Did I just think that? It must be that top-quality Swiss dark chocolate. There's got to be some sort of mind-altering drug in them. Yes, that must be it.
I'm under the influence of chocolate. Anything I say about James Potter's incredibly enticing lips or mesmerizing hazel eyes or toned upper arms cannot be held against me.
"Is that so?" James says, leaning closer to me. "I wouldn't know. I was on a walk 'round the lake, you see."
"You were walking by the lake?" I ask him.
"Oh, yes," he replies. "It's very good for your health. You ought to give it a try sometime."
"Isn't it boring, though, walking alone?"
Alright, so I'm obviously fishing. But I'm desperate, and desperate times call for desperate measures.
Why am I talking in clichés?
"Oh, didn't I say?" he says. "I wasn't alone."
Here he pauses, grinning. Git.
"Really?" I ask. It's completely pointless to keep this charade of nonchalance up, since it's obvious he knows, but I still feign innocence.
And he plays along. "You wouldn't know her," he says, just to torment me.
"Try me," I say.
"Just Marlene McKinnon."
"And why were you walking with her?" Merlin, I sound like a jealous girlfriend. Which I am not. I'm not his girlfriend – nor do I wish to be, except maybe for the occasional moment where his hair falls into his eyes or he says something surprisingly sweet or gives me that special smile of his, which, you know, hardly ever happens – and I'm definitely not jealous.
"We were discussing our future," he says with a nod.
I stare at him in disbelief. Their future? As in their future together as a couple?
"Oh?" I say weakly, with a strangled sort of voice. I'm still processing this. "That's… nice."
"Isn't it?" he says cheerfully, as if he doesn't know that my head is spinning and that I'm suddenly feeling awfully unsteady.
Alright, so there's no way he could know that. But still. He should have some sort of Lily's-in-distress instinct in him.
Although he wouldn't really care about whether I'm in distress or not, would he? If anything, he'd have a Marlene's-in-distress instinct.
His voice cuts into my thoughts. "Your name was mentioned quite a few times in our conversation, actually," he says.
Most likely Marlene asked about James' former crush on me. And James said that I was out of the picture. That he was over me.
Oh, Merlin. I honestly can't deny it now, can I? Just as the bloke's moved on, my stupid hormones – or maybe even my heart – decide to start fancying him.
"She was asking about you."
I knew it.
"How nice of her to take me into consideration."
"Wasn't it?" he says, his voice still cheery and a grin still on his face. I want to throw something at him. "I told her she shouldn't have bothered."
Now I'm angry. He's implying that I wasn't worthy enough to be in Marlene McKinnon's thoughts.
But then this is what I deserve, isn't it? All those times in the last few years when I rejected him in such a humiliating, thoughtless way flash through my head Now he's doing the same to me. Karma. What goes around, comes around.
Apparently part of my punishment for my terrible behaviour towards James is to talk in clichés, since I can't seem to stop doing so.
"I told her, 'Marly, I don't think Lily will really care how we split up the properties.'"
So he calls her Marly. What a stupid nickname.
Wait. What? Split up the properties? Are they setting up a pre-nuptial agreement or something? Oh sweet Merlin, are they getting married?
I can't stand this anymore.
"James," I say, interrupting him as he opens his mouth to say something else. "I have to know now. Is Marlene your girlfriend? Your fiancée? Is there some sort of pureblood arranged marriage thing between you two?"
He's quiet for a moment, and I fear the worst.
"Marlene and I are the same age," James says after a while, meeting my gaze. I look away. "She turns 17 a few weeks later than I do, though. So I'm the one who inherits everything according to my grandfather's will. But I don't want the whole Potter estate to myself, and I didn't think it was fair that she wouldn't get anything. So I offered to split up the estate with her."
I'm only half-listening, images of James and Marlene McKinnon getting married whirling through my head. When his words finally get through my thick skull, I can't do anything but stare up at him blankly.
"Marlene," James says, "is my cousin."
My heart stops for a moment, before starting to beat even faster. I look up hesitantly. Does he mean what I think he means?
He isn't smiling. He's staring at me, his eyes serious for once. I look back at him, and although I'm sure that we look like idiots just standing right there in the middle of the common room, I don't care. All our joking around during breakfast, all our surprisingly deep conversations during Head patrols, all the circling around each other we've been doing for the past few months – they've all led up to this moment.
Time seems to stand still, and suddenly I have tunnel vision. Everything's blurry and hazy and not very clear at all. As terribly cheesy as it is, the only thing I can focus on properly is him.
James. He's always been the one stepping forward, reaching out, starting things. In our first year, after our disastrous first meeting on the train, after I made my mind up not to have anything to do with him, he came up to me and apologised. In all the years after that, we clashed and bickered and argued. But after every fight, when both our egos were bruised, he'd always be the one to give in first and suggest a truce, at least until the next argument. Last year, when he'd lost some of his arrogance, I caught a glimpse of the real him and discovered that I actually liked it. I liked his fearless optimism. I liked how he was a good leader and how easily he got along with people. I liked that he was a true Gryffindor – brave, loyal, chivalrous, and honourable. My pride didn't want to let me admit it, though, and so I treated him as coolly as possible. But when we started out seventh year as Head Boy and Girl, he'd saved me the embarrassment of admitting I was wrong by being the one to reach out and propose a friendship.
He's been moving forward all this time while I've always stayed a foot away. Now he's stopped, waiting for me to finally step up. Somehow I know that whatever happens from here, it's up to me.
Maybe later I'll regret it. Maybe later I'll blame it on mind-altering drugs hidden in my top-quality Swiss dark chocolate (which I really must get more of, by the way). But now, in this moment, with James' eyes on mine and his body mere inches from mine, it feels right that I do something. That, no matter what the consequences are, I have to do something.
And so I lean forward, put my hands on either side of his face, and press my lips to his.
I am, after all, a woman of action.
A/N: So here's the oneshot I've been promising for a while. It's just a light-hearted thing, and it's not meant to be taken very seriously. I know it's different from what I usually do, and I admit that it's slightly ridiculous and cliche and cheesy. I'm not very happy with the ending, but I did have fun writing it, and I hope you guys had fun reading it. :) Thanks to Azi (serenamithane) for doing a good job of Beta-ing this. :D